Imagine there is no light bulb in your room. Except there are glowing plants, a small one for your reading table that gives you a soft soothing reading light. A big one on your street’s corner replacing your street light. These plants, once integrated with light-emitting particles, don’t need electricity. They charge themselves up using the sunlight and a lens mounted near them. This vision you just had is not pure imagination but it may soon become reality, thanks to the efforts of nanoscientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
MIT scientists have successfully integrated specialised nanoparticles in the leaves of alive plants to create light-emitting plants. The new plants can be charged using an LED or sunlight and by just 10 seconds of exposure, they can emit light for up to an hour. The new plants are 10-times brighter than the first generation of light-emitting plants, as per the scientists.
Scientists conducted experiments for several years and found that they could create a “light capacitor” by getting nanoparticles inside the plant’s mesophyll layer of their leaves. To let the nanoparticles enter the plant, scientists immersed the plants in a solution and then applied high pressure so that the particles could enter the plant leaves through their stomata – small pores in plants’ bodies through which they exchange water and gases. This way, without hurting plant bodies, scientists could create a thin film of nanoparticles that can absorb and emit photons – particles of light. According to the scientists, the film could be recharged using sunlight or an LED light regularly for two weeks.
The plants were demonstrated in an exhibition in 2019 at the Smithsonian Institute of Design, Manhattan, New York City. Scientists believe that the plants show a vision of a future in which plants will sustainably replace our electric lights.
“If living plants could be the starting point of advanced technology, plants might replace our current unsustainable urban electrical lighting grid for the mutual benefit of all plant-dependent species — including people,” says Sheila Kennedy, one of the authors of the study, in a statement.
The study was published on September 8 in Science Advances.